Tuesday, May 7, 2013

THIS happened...

(her name is Roma Bloom, and she is the best baby that ever was)...

So, because of that, there's not a lot of THIS happening...

But, I will be back, and when I am, there will be some of THIS happening...

Which will mean, probably a little less THIS...

And a little more THIS...

With maybe a bit of THIS...

And definitely some more of THIS...

So, stay tuned!...

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Which One Is the Baby?

Why is a very pregnant woman writing a blog post at midnight?

For those of you who have ever been pregnant, or perhaps currently are, I hope that you will recognize/take solace in/have at least heard of the amazing, the inimitable...pregnancy mood swing. 

Ta da! Oh, the glory!

Details? You don't need details, trust me. You, like my dear exhausted husband, would want to bury your head in a pillow and/or search desperately for my "off" switch if I were to head down the road of details. And though I'm not keen on excusing bad behavior by trotting out the "hormones" as scapegoat, I do have to say that there is a fervor to the pregnancy melt-down that can only be chalked up to chemistry.

But, if a person were to Google, oh, say...third trimester and mood swings, said person would only find some very luke-warm write-ups on estrogen and progesteron and how asking for help with the dishes or eating a high-protein snack might just do the trick in turning that frown upside-down!  Ugh.

I have yet to come across an article that talks about how to wade through mind-numbing angst about life-purpose and career prospects and why it's hard to feel like you deserve all the relaxation and savoring that everyone is asking you to do while you're pregnant and goddess-like if you feel like you really don't have a whole lot going on in the work and money department and oh my god are you ever going to be able to make all of this work, post-baby, when you still feel like you have so FAR to go?!? (And P.S. Beyonce Knowles...are your billboards for your new HBO film, "Life is But a Dream", intended to make me feel even worse about all of this? Because really, I feel like you're doing it on purpose.)

But, no. I have never found that article. The one that reads:

"I'm Having a Baby and I Can't Stop Worrying about My Non-Existent Acting Career!", or;

"Pregnancy and Goal-Setting...a Recipe for Panic."


"How to Give Yourself a Goddamn Break and Just Enjoy Your Life Even Though You Sort of Feel Like Maybe You're Not the Focused Person You Thought You Were, But Rather a Bit of a Dilettante."


"Why Trying to Finish a New Draft of a Every Project in Your "Projects" Folder In the Next Seven Weeks Might Not Be a Great Use of Your Time, Preggo."

Or maybe, just:

"It's. All. Going. To. Be. Okay."

If I were to come across any of those articles I would be relieved, gratified...would feel in the bosom of my pregnant community.  But instead, most of the questions/comments and write-ups regarding pregnancy and mood-swings all seem to be stories of women yelling at their husbands because they put their candies in the freezer (no joke), or having four-alarm meltdowns about acne, or just generally describing themselves as "crazy BeYotches" (that's an exact quote)...during pregnancy.  These revelations do not give me any comfort.  I can not, will not, be reduced to calling myself a crazy BeYotch. Yo.

So, I guess it's up to me. I will write the article. The one about how pregnant women have mood swings about things other than just their pregnancy. About how even though the closer I get the more confident I get, in many ways, about my ability to be a mother, and the more excited I feel about actually meeting this little person who is curled up, as I write this, with her little feets under my ribcage... it is also true that the closer I get, the more I start to realize how much my life is about to change. And how much I don't know what that's going to mean, or feel like, or look like. And that it's sort of scary.  And that sometimes it makes me feel selfish and petty and like I don't want to let go of any of what is only me and mine. And that I'm sure I'm not alone in this.

(Or god, at least I hope not).

So, my fellow pregnant mommas, my fellow non-pregnant mommas, my fellow crazy BeYotches...(couldn't resist).  I'm here reporting from the trenches. I'm here to say that as miraculous and exciting and love-filled as so much of this pregnancy has been, there are also some parts that are just downright upsetting. And not just because the nursery isn't turning out the way you planned. And that it's okay. And that you're not alone. Which is good. Because it also means that I'm not. So, thank you.  Because, I needed that.

Friday, January 18, 2013

Where I Been, Where I Be, Where I Be Goin...

Enough said?

NOTE: This is not MY pregnant belly. This is a random internet image of a pregnant belly. I just liked it.

NOTE: I am, however, pregnant.

NOTE: It is, also in fact, a girl.

Oh, wow, you might be saying, that's great, did you just find out? Is that why we're only hearing about this now?



The truth is, I'm due soon. Increasingly sooner and sooner-er. Mid March, to be specific. So, no, I did not just find out. Have I been thinking about posting about it here for quite awhile? Yes. Have I been encouraged by others to write, in particular, about the pregnancy in this space? Yes, I have. Have I done any of that? No, I have not.

Oh, Shanti Towners...what can I even say for myself?

I will start with this...early on in the pregnancy I spent one tearful afternoon telling a very close friend (who is a new mother) all about how much trouble I was having getting work done...how I had made a commitment to myself this year to take my creative work more seriously and now, with the due date looming like a giant measuring stick (you must have gotten THIS much done in order to ride this ride), I was feeling...lost.  What exactly was I supposed to be focusing on? Where exactly was I supposed to be putting my energy? And who, for the love of ______, was I exactly, anyhow?

Said friend listened very politely to my struggle and then reminded me, as gently as possible, that I was currently involved in the biggest creative project of my life...the creation of another human being...and that it made sense that perhaps I did not feel like I had as much out in my output these days.

So I have allowed myself, Shanti Towners, a bit of a paring down, these last several months.  My creative energies have been going to projects outside of this blog, and that includes, in large part, to the creative project currently taking place in my belly. Hence the prolonged absence.

Which I can not promise you will not continue, but hopefully even the continued absence will be punctuated with some shouts and giggles from the other side.

As for now, as the due date moves closer, I find myself in the midst of a necessary shedding...a space-making, a time-taking, a head-clearing. Which sounds, I'm sure, very lovely and maybe even easy to some of you...but trust me, for this lady, it's not. It's not at all easy. It's confusing. And on certain days, it's hard to know exactly what I'm putting down, and for how long, and how and if and when exactly I will pick it back up again.

It is a time, for me, of learning (re-learning) how to trust the process.  What happens when you let something go? What happens when you trust that just because you're not actively worried about/working on/obsessing about something, it does not mean that something will disappear from your life or your heart? What happens when you give yourself space to just breathe and to be and to connect, whether or not you think you've "earned" it? What happens then? Does everything fall apart like your busy brain tells you it will...or does something else happen? Does something get clearer? Does anything?

For the moment...I'm not sure. But I'll let you know what I find out...

Until then, Shanti-Towners...sending you lots and lots of love...

Friday, October 26, 2012

The Winds They Are A-Blowin'...

"It is necessary to write, if the days are not to slip emptily by.  How else, indeed, to clap the net over the butterfly of the moment? For the moment passes, it is forgotten; the mood is gone; life itself is gone. That is where the writer scores over his fellows: he catches the changes of his mind on the hop."
- Vita Sackville-West 

It's Fall here. Though you wouldn't know it most days, through the 80 degree weather and endless (ENDLESS) sunshine. You might scoff, you of the darker climes, but it is inhumane to live in a place where the weather never changes.  Sunshine, or no sunshine.  Two days ago we had our first bout of the Santa Ana winds...all night long they rattled windows and blew down unsuspecting plants. There is something unsettling about so much movement in the air, but I was grateful for it. Some weather, any weather, is a blessed event after this long, hot, summer.

(And as the winds blow outside, the winds blow within.)

Our apartment has been invaded with critters. Yesterday a cricket fell from the ether right smack into the middle of my keyboard and then hopped merrily off. The crickets are staging a coup, I'm sure of it. And the creepy drawer-dwellers, and the spiders, and even, the other day, a praying mantis, perched on our curtain rod.  Last night I spent twenty minutes trapping and releasing a giant brown spider that had housed itself in one of my scarves. All that work to keep it alive and away from the house, and then as soon as I let it free on our porch it tried to scurry back in. At which point I grabbed a notebook and whapped it, and whapped it, ready to kill.

Lucky for him, I missed.

I find myself, lately, thinking and thinking. Thinking of all the things that need to be done, thinking about all the time I don't have to do them in, thinking about where I'm going and where I've been, thinking about how I'm going to get to the next place, and why I'm not there yet. Thinking about my friends and my family, wondering how they are and what they need, thinking about my mind and my heart, thinking and thinking and thinking and in the midst of the thinking feeling nostalgia for this very moment as it passes me by, unacknowledged.

In a conversation earlier this week I confessed to someone, "I think I ought to be more present, but then I worry that if I'm present, I won't know what needs to be done next and how to do it." And she said to me that I only have this moment to deal with things, anyhow, and that I would just have to trust that I will know how to handle things, when and if they come up. And that in the meantime, there is nothing to do but be in my life.

And I thought about this for days, afterwards. I turned it over. I let the winds wash it around. And I discovered that she was right.

I can only be inspired in this moment, I can only affect circumstances in this moment, I can only take action in this moment, and I can only react to my life, in this moment.  What happens in the future is an unknown whether I'm preoccupied with worry about it, or not. It will come and present challenges and openings, whether I've been thinking about it, or not. But this moment is already here. This sun is already shining. That bird on the wire outside my window is already there. This morning is already upon me. This breath is breathing me, keeping me alive, and this silence is the only one I get. So, you know...use it or lose it.

I trust these winds. They are appropriately timed, all in preparation for the great hunkering down of winter. I will let them blow through and shake free the last dead leaves of summer.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

The Simplicity of Trees...

I keep thinking back these days to the very first time I encountered what could be called a spiritual teaching. Well, maybe it wasn't the first time I encountered one, but it was the first time I encountered one that encountered me, back.

I was twenty-four. I was miserable. I was miserable primarily because I was feeling like a failure as an actress, but I was also miserable in much deeper ways, ways that I couldn't quite understand. I just knew that some days I felt happy and some days I didn't and the days I didn't were nearly as many (and oftentimes more) than the days I did. And I had a friend, a woman many years older than me, who said to me one day, very simply, hey, there's something I think you should hear, and she introduced me to some teachings. Just some audio-cassettes of a teacher that she followed, giving a seminar.

We listened to them in her car as we drove around near her home in upstate New York.

I don't remember, honestly, if I was skeptical going into it. I don't think I had expectations one way or the other. I hadn't been exposed to much, other than my brief brush with Episcopalianism when I was young, but I wasn't naive, and usually I was wary of such things. In fact, as a teenager and early twenty-something I prided myself on my skepticism.  I mean, I have no idea how I appeared to the outside world, but in my head I was a chain-smoking no-nonsense fuck-you-guys kind of chick. (On the inside, I didn't like myself very much, but that's another story). Point being, I wasn't starry-eyed, you know? I wasn't looking for some solution. I had no thought in my head that what I was about to listen to would be anything other than...interesting.

But, what happened was actually pretty dramatic. I don't know how to describe the experience except that I knew, cellularly, in my bones, as I listened to those tapes, that I was hearing truth. Possibly for the first time. And maybe it was because I didn't have expectations, or the timing was just so exactly, perfectly, right...but I think I changed. I think I had one of those experiences where you actually change, from top to bottom, in an instant.  I was able to literally put down everything that was worrying me, confusing me, upsetting me, dragging me down, and turn, 180 degrees, into the light.

And I stayed there.

I remember the next day, I was standing in her dining room, looking out this window she had that faced a little copse of trees (I have written about this before here on this blog, forgive me for the repeat). I remember I was standing there and I was just trying to take in the beauty of the trees. Because part of what happened, when I opened up like that, in her car the day before, is I realized that I had stopped looking at the world. I hadn't been appreciating the beauty of the world around me. And so I was standing there, looking at the trees, standing in this blissful interior silence, when an old voice arose. What about all the things you have to do..... It started to say.  What about getting a job or fixing that old relationship? Why should you get to stand here and admire trees? Etc., etc....

And I remember I just very simply addressed the marauding voice and said, no...you're not ruining this for me. And it, and it's accompanying dark feelings, vanished as quickly as it came. And, in that moment I felt an immense power. I can do this, I thought. I can really do this.

Fast-forward seven years.

I have learned a lot more. I have read a lot more. I have been through a lot more. I have even been through an extended period of time where what I thought I found disappeared completely. Entirely. With no sign of return.  I have swung back and forth and gained and lost footing, and landed ultimately, most of the time, somewhere in the middle. Which is not a terrible place to land.

But I have been thinking back to this first moment. Because, there was something that was so clear, in that first encounter, which has become...confused. It's challenging to read so much, to listen to so much, to hear so many reasonable voices of truth (and some not so reasonable), to hear ideas and prescriptions that sound like ways in, only to discover that they are not maybe ways in for YOU. And I'm talking about the spiritual path but I'm also talking about the path of an artist, the path of a career, the path of making a home and a family...it is possible to take too much in. It's possible to want and expect too much, and for that wanting and that expectation to be the very thing that keeps you from the simplicity of looking at trees.

So, today the mantra is to remember the simple way. To remember the crystalline quality of truth. It's not complicated. It's not effortful. It's not pre-planned. It's the thing that makes your bones feel like they're humming. Just look for that feeling, and most likely, you're on the right path.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Action as Cliff-Diving...

No complaint. Action.

My husband has been bandy-ing this about lately.

(Bandy-ing? Bandieng?)

Anyhow. He read it somewhere, and it touched him. And I have grown to like it quite a lot, too. No complaint...action.

And we've been using it. In moments where we find ourselves slipping into mutual bemoaning...jobs, careers, creative projects, money, weather, driving, social outings...one or the other of us has been piping up, "no complaint, action!" And it has an immediate silencing effect. A positive silencing. A silencing of the mental wheels turning and a clarifying of sharp irrefutable CHOICE. As in...we have the choice to do something about that which gets us down...or not. Either way, the complaining either pre- or post- or during, is useless.

But, this is not about blind action or action as the only force of change (because I firmly believe that action is a partner in the process of creation, not THE process of creation)...because sometimes the "action" that rises up to release the complaint is just a few deep breaths. Sometimes the action that rises up is just about going back to driving the car or writing the email or eating the food--DOING whatever it is you were doing before you found something to complain about.

And I realize, that there are things that seem unchangeable, there are things that seem to have no complementary action...either because they are out of our control or because they just feel too big to ever be able to DO anything about them...but still, if you were to apply this equation, even to those peskiest of concerns:

No complaint, action...

Then wouldn't the only choice be to engage in SOME kind of action, in place of the complaint? A long walk. A phone call. A book. Sitting down and making something. And wouldn't that result in a kind of letting go? A softening around that thing that seems so impossible?

I had a conversation with a student after class today about falling out of handstand. She had taken a falling workshop and hadn't been able to master the art of the fall. It was too scary. The giving up of control too great. And we talked about how much courage it requires to fall. We talked about how it is so much more about the body and so not about the mind.

And, I thought about what it's like to jump into water from a great height...you know that feeling, when your toes are at the edge of the cliff, or the edge of the diving board, and the water is stretched out underneath you? Do you know the one?

Being the younger sister of a highly physically adventurous brother, and not being one to publically turn down a challenge (especially if presented by said older brother), I have found myself a reluctant cliff jumper on many occasions.

And what I have discovered, is that my mind is never what leads me off the cliff and down to the water below. To the contrary. My mind, if it had its way, would have me standing and contemplating possible outcomes, my calculatable physical safety, why on earth I'm doing this in the first place, until the sun went down behind me.

It is my body who has to decide. It is my body who has to take action. Body just steps...and falls. And it's done. Whatever happens afterward is a present-moment experience, and there will be no choice but to take it as it comes. Action, action, action.

(Perhaps the state of presence is nothing more than a state of action. Without complaint.)

Regardless of what else you may believe, it is clear that we are physical beings, living and breathing and loving and working in a physical world. We are meant to act. Action is a delicious thing...and it exists, it only exists in the present. You can't take action yesterday or tomorrow...only now.

And so today, if you feel yourself drifting into complaint (which includes self-criticism, which includes any thought/feeling/story that concludes that what is happening in your life in this moment is somehow not appropriate), stop, take a breath, and look for an action to take. Not to SOLVE what you're complaining about, but for the pure pleasure of engaging in the present-moment-ness of your life. Jump off that cliff.

(No complaint. Action.)